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Tonga: Cat 5 Ian devastates Ha‘apai islands

By Australia Network News — last modified Jan 17, 2014 03:19 PM
One person died on Lifuka as Tropical Cyclone Ian Category 5 ripped through the Ha‘apai Islands on Saturday afternoon, causing extensive devastation. The government declared a state of emergency after the islands were pounded by winds in excess of 105 knots (200km/h), which whipped up mountainous seas.

Published: 2014-01-13 00:00:00
Topics: Weather
Countries: Tonga

Tonga: Cat 5 Ian devastates Ha‘apai islands

Cyclone Ian approaching Tonga: © NASA

Tongan authorities say they have made contact with most of the smaller islands battered by Cyclone Ian with reports of extensive damage and at least one person killed.

Contact with small northern islands of the Ha'apai group, home to about 8,000 people, was lost when the category five storm packing winds of more than 200 kilometres per hour swept through the area over the weekend. Communication and power is still limited in some areas and there is concern for the well-being of residents on low-lying islands.

A state of emergency remains in place for the Ha'apai and Vava'u groups of islands, which were hardest hit by the cyclone. Up to 70 per cent of houses and buildings in the central Ha'apai Islands group, which is home to about 8000 people and which bore the brunt of Cyclone Ian, were damaged or destroyed.

The director of Tonga's Disaster Management Team, Leveni Aho, says it appears some smaller islands were lucky to escape serious damage. "The path of the cyclone was very narrow indeed, so it hit some islands, and yet the neighbourhood about 40 to 50 kilometres away was almost untouched," he said.

Mr Aho, who is co-ordinating the emergency response to the disaster, says he's surprised there are not more casualties.

"We haven't had any further reports of any deaths, which is very good indeed, and looking at the amount of devastation it was a miracle that not more than one person has a loss of life."

He says residents on some of the low-lying islands are being moved to higher ground after a sea surge left flooded some of their homes.

The Governor of Ha'apai, Tu'i Ha'angana, has visited the area and says the damage is so bad he can see from one side of the island to the other. "It's just devastating seeing homes that were here last month destroyed, families sitting outside trying to ravage through whatever remains there are," he said.

Relief efforts are underway with the United Nations working with Tongan disaster officials and the Red Cross to inspect the hardest hit areas.

The secretary general of Tonga Red Cross, Sione Taumoefolau, says tents and other supplies will be given to residents who have lost everything. "There's a lot of houses that are down, about 80 per cent of the buildings have gone, so the people have been staying in evacuation centres," he said.

There is also significant damage to infrastructure and vegetation.

Read more at Australia Network News

Further Information

In pictures: Cyclone Ian aftermath

15 January 2014: A report from the Disaster Controller at the National Emergency Coordination Cerntre (NEMO), regarding Tropical Cyclone Ian

 

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Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
Jan 24, 2014 12:38 PM

On Tongatapu Island, the main island in the kingdom, Kingdom Travel Centre based in the capital Nuku'alofa are busy raising funds to help Ha’apai. The funds are for the purpose of supplying building materials so that the people who have totally lost their homes can, at the very least, build temporary shelter.
For full information on donating to the fund see the facebook page https://www.facebook.com/KingdomTravel.
For further information on how you can help, phone Lu’isa or Sue on +676 23192.
News item about the relief effort on the Tonga pages.

Tom
Tom says:
Jan 15, 2014 08:14 PM

Is there a specific agency (other than the International Red Cross) who is accepting donations for the relief of the Tongans?

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